Happy Wednesday and welcome back to The Spin! Following a strong holiday season, the ongoing transformation of the retail landscape will continue next year. Today we focus on shrinking store footprints and a reassessment of start-up direct-to-consumer companies. We also look at the state of Amazon Flex drivers. And then there is the return of Beni Fashion Week in Congo. Enjoy the read and feel free to share! Best, Ulrike


Record spending. US retailers are celebrating a very strong holiday season, with Black Friday and Super Saturday recording the highest levels of spending. e-commerce soared over 18 percent, while total holiday sales climbed 5.85 percent to a record $598 billion, exceeding most industry forecasts.


Big Boxing Day. Over in the UK, yesterday’s Boxing Day attracted millions of bargain shoppers who spent an estimated £4.5 billion, likely exceeding Black Friday (£2.6billion) and Super Saturday (£1.67 billion) combined. Online sales were up, while business at brick-and-mortar stores was slower than expected.

Less is more. In response to the ongoing online boom, many brick-and-mortar retailers including Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor and Target are decreasing the floor size of their physical locations. For the next four years, sales at smaller-format stores are expected to outpace those at big-box locations with an annual growth of 3.9 percent vs 0.8 percent.


Knock, knock. From message T-shirts and platform sneakers to Adidas’ three stripes and Gucci’s color stripes, 2017 brought an onslaught of designer knock-offs, inspirations and appropriations. While large brands continued to sue each other, several alleged copiers of lesser known brands got away scot-free - aside from an increasing degree of exposure on social media.


Overdose. With more than $1 billion of venture capital pumped into start-up direct-to-consumer brands, the global DTC market has become very crowded. Investment dollars are expected to decrease significantly in 2018, redirecting the focus towards companies with viable long-term strategies, realistic growth plans and added value propositions that help them stand out amidst their competition.

Make fashion, not war. Following years of attacks and sexual violence by soldiers, rebels and other armed groups, about 600 residents of the city of Beni in eastern Congo just experienced their first Beni Fashion Week since 2014. On display were outfits by Congolese designers including Roselyne Mbiya and Miki Sikabwe. Some of the event's proceeds will go to victims of rape and violence in the region.


Plain Clothes. For its last-mile deliveries, US online giant Amazon deploys so-called Flex drivers. At about $20 per hour these private drivers use their own 4-door vehicles and cell phones and are free to choose their own attire during work hours, which usually generates interesting responses from startled customers.


Valley of the dolls. For years, reports have pointed to drug use, sexual abuse and human trafficking in Silicon Valley’s high-tech community. While US lawmakers are working to reduce online sex trafficking, recent Newsweek report highlights the rise of prostitution "hobbyists" at prominent tech companies including Amazon and Microsoft.


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